Hot Tap and Stopple: On Call for Reliability

The Hot Tap and Stopple (HT&S) team is on 24-hour standby to ensure that no disruption occurs to the company’s flow of oil through its vast network of pipelines. With the average daily crude oil production of 2014 at 9.5 million barrels per day (mbd), keeping pipes that transport the crude functional is essential. This makes maintenance a delicate matter, and a standard repair would previously require shutting down pipelines — and disrupting operations — for several days. The HT&S team has changed things; making it possible to safely cut into pipes, created a temporary branch to bypass the flow around the area requiring maintenance, and then replacing the valve — all without interrupting the pipeline flow. Hot Tap and Stopple Hot tapping is one of the most tested techniques for conducting repairs to a pipe or vessel while still under pressure. The Hot Tap team can bore holes as small as one-quarter of an inch and as large as 56 inches into pipes that they repair. They can also operate in temperatures as high as 700 degrees Fahrenheit and 2,220 pounds per square inch of pressure. Stopples are plugs that temporarily plug functioning pipes to isolate a segment for repair or modification. Stopple operations can isolate pipes up to 60 inches in diameter, and can operate at temperatures as high as 250 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures as high as 1,800 pounds per square inch. Demand and Growth Currently, Saudi Aramco’s HT&S team is the Kingdom’s only provider of hot tap services, and demand is strong. Nearly 200 HT&S operations are conducted per year over the past five years, and this number is likely increase as the company expands into petrochemicals and the Kingdom’s manufacturing industry grows. The HT&S team currently services both company operations and third party partners.